Toxic air in SW Indy creating health issues
The southwest corner of Indianapolis features a smattering of working-class neighborhoods surrounded by factories where aircraft engines, automobile parts, medicine and chemicals are made. People there may pay a price for living in Marion County's industrial hub. An investigation by the Indianapolis Star found some troubling statistics.
For example, from 1989 through 2001, some 195 residents died of lung cancer—almost 11 of every 100 people who died, as compared with a county rate of eight per 100 deaths. In one of the tracts studied, 15 of 100 deaths were attributed to lung cancer—95% higher than the county rate.
In 1998 and 1999, residents there suffered respiratory problems at rates more than three times the county average. Indiana and Indianapolis environmental and health officials did little to investigate documented risks from air pollution or the resultant health problems.
“This is a bad situation,” says Dr. Steven S. Ross of Columbia University, an expert in statistics and databases. He reviewed the newspaper’s data and concluded: “I look at this as a dangerous neighborhood to live in.”
The Environmental Protection Agency released a study in 2002 which showed that people in the southwest part of the city had some of the highest cancer rates in the United States, attributable to air pollution and chemical exposure churned out by the surrounding industries.
A disproportionate share of pollution in Marion County is emitted by industries on the southwest side, even as overall pollution levels in the county are dropping. In 2001, the latest year for which there are data, some 1.7 million pounds of pollution (including ozone-producing compounds and benzene) were generated by 19 companies within a two-mile radius of the low-income area.